Overview

The Linkage Program—Special Research Initiative: PFAS (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances) Remediation Research Program is a Commonwealth initiative to fund research to facilitate the development of innovative technologies and investigate and remediate PFAS contaminated areas, including soil, groundwater waterways and marine systems.

The objectives of the PFAS Remediation Research Program is to:

  • develop technologies which will do one or more of the following
    • immobilise PFAS and prevent its movement in the environment
    • remove PFAS from soil, water and/or waste
    • breakdown PFAS by destroying the carbon-fluorine bonds, to form environmentally benign products with limited adverse environmental outcomes.
  • establish the potential for relevant technologies developed to be deployed in the field to treat contaminated soil, waterways, waste, debris and/or large volumes of groundwater
  • develop technologies that can be scaled up for efficient and effective field deployment.

Selection process

Proposals for projects commencing in 2018 opened on 14 December 2017 and closed on 28 February 2018. Proposals were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines outcomes from the selection process for Round One.

These recommendations are based on advice from the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) which:

  • assessed proposals and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed candidates’ comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each proposal relative to the others on the basis of the proposal, the assessors’ reports and candidates’ responses to those assessments
  • assessed and recommended budgets
  • recommended proposal feedback.

and advice from the ARC Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the SAC or independent assessors
  • where required, sought advice from the ARC’s Medical Research Advisory Group
  • made recommendations to the CEO in respect of ineligible proposals.

This report reflects the outcomes approved by the Minister. Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.

Selection criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weighting for PFAS Remediation Research Program proposals are:

  • Research Project – Quality and Innovation (30%)
  • People and Partners (30%)
  • Feasibility (20%)
  • Benefit and Outcomes (20%).

The ARC assessment process for PFAS Remediation Research Program used 10 SAC members and was managed in RMS. A total of 100 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for Round One of PFAS Remediation Research Program.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received 31 proposals with the Committee recommending nine proposals. There were no withdrawn proposals. The overall success rate was 29 per cent. Overall funding amounts are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.    Summary of PFAS Round One Selection Outcomes

Funding year

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate

(%)

Requested funds over project life (all proposals)

Requested funds over project life (approved

 proposals)

Approved funds over project life (approved proposals)

Approved funds as a percentage of request (%)

2018

31

9

29.0

$28,093,158

$9,749,480

$8,166,350

83.8

Approved PFAS Remediation Research Proposals for Funding

Details of approved PFAS Remediation Research Proposals for funding in 2018 are shown in Table 2.

Table 2 – Approved Proposals for Funding

Project Title

Administering Organisation

Lead Chief Investigator

Approved funds over project life

PFAS source zone remediation by foam fractionation and in situ fluidisation

The University of New South Wales

Associate Professor Robert Niven

$900,000

Development of electrochemically activated sorbents for PFAS defluorination

The University of New South Wales

Associate Professor Denis O'Carroll

$1,103,883

Thermal decomposition of per- and polyfluroalkyl substances

The University of Newcastle

Professor Eric Kennedy

$940,000

Remediation of PFAS in current and legacy biosolids application sites

The University of Newcastle

Professor Megharaj Mallavarapu

$650,054

Remediation of PFAS contaminated soil using a soil washing treatment train

The University of Queensland

Professor Jochen Mueller

$1,225,000

A skid-based transportable plant for PFAS contaminated site remediation

The University of Queensland

Professor Victor Rudolph

$880,187

Integrated, scalable technology solutions for PFAS removal and destruction

The University of Queensland

Professor Jurg Keller

$1,086,676

Efficient PFAS removal from urban wastewater using a novel 2-step approach

The University of Queensland

Dr Ilje Pikaar

$381,468

Holistic remediation of PFAS-affected soils, waters and debris

Deakin University

Dr Will Gates

$999,082

Selection Outcomes by Administering Organisation 

The numbers of proposals, success rates and approved funding in Round One are shown in Table 3.

Table 3 – Selection Outcomes by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life 
(approved proposals)

Participating organisation*# 
contributions 
(cash & in-kind) over project life 
(approved proposals

Australian Capital Territory

2

0

0

$0

$0

The Australian National University

2

0

0

$0

$0

New South Wales

12

4

33.3

$3,593,937

$5,480,294

Southern Cross University

1

0

0

$0

$0

The University of New South Wales

2

2

100

$2,003,883

$3,426,767

The University of Newcastle

6

2

33.3

$1,590,054

$2,053,527

The University of Sydney

1

0

0

$0

$0

University of Technology Sydney

2

0

0

$0

$0

Queensland

5

4

80

$3,573,331

$6,309,832

The University of Queensland

5

4

80

$3,573,331

$6,309,832

South Australia

4

0

0

$0

$0

Flinders University

1

0

0

$0

$0

The University of Adelaide

1

0

0

$0

$0

University of South Australia

2

0

0

$0

$0

Victoria

7

1

14.3

$999,082

$2,159,786

Deakin University

1

1

100

$999,082

$2,159,786

Monash University

1

0

0

$0

$0

RMIT University

3

0

0

$0

$0

Swinburne University of Technology

1

0

0

$0

$0

The University of Melbourne

1

0

0

$0

$0

Western Australia

1

0

0

$0

$0

Murdoch University

1

0

0

$0

$0

Total

31

9

29

$8,166,350

$13,949,912

* Participating Organisations include the Administering Organisation, Other Eligible Organisations, Partner Organisations and Other Organisations.

# Participating Organisation contributions are shown by organisation type in Table 4.

Participating Organisation Contributions by Organisation Type

The participating organisation contributions, by organisation type, for approved Round One proposals are shown in Table 4.

Table 4 – Participating Organisation Contributions by Organisation Type

Organisation type

Organisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved proposals)

Administering Organisation

$4,979,213

Other Eligible Organisation

$767,945

Partner Organisation

$8,015,606

Other Organisation

$187,148

Total

$13,949,912

Partner Organisation Contributions by Category

Partner Organisations were identified as government, non-profit organisation, industry body or other. The Partner Organisation contributions in these categories for approved proposals are shown in Table 5. 

Table 5 – Partner Organisation Contributions by Category

Type

Cash

In-kind

Total

 

$

%

$

%

$

%

Government

 

Australian Government

$0

0.00

$199,789

3.50

$199,789

2.49

Australian state, territory/local government

$805,000

34.83

$839,700

14.72

$1,644,700

20.52

Sub-Total

$805,000

34.83

$1,039,489

18.22

$1,844,489

23.01

Industry Body

 

Australian

$1,081,435

46.79

$4,163,684

72.99

$5,245,119

65.44

International

$0

0.00

$32,500

0.57

$32,500

0.41

Sub-Total

$1,081,435

46.79

$4,196,184

73.56

$5,277,619

65.85

Non-profit

 

Australian

$30,000

1.30

$60,000

1.05

$90,000

1.12

Sub-Total

$30,000

1.30

$60,000

1.05

$90,000

1.12

Other

 

Other

$345,000

14.93

$270,000

4.73

$615,000

7.67

Sub-Total

$345,000

14.93

$270,000

4.73

$615,000

7.67

Education

 

Higher Education International

$50,000

2.16

$138,498

2.43

$188,498

2.35

Sub-Total

$50,000

2.16

$138,498

2.43

$188,498

2.35

Total

$2,311,435

100

$5,704,171

100

$8,015,606

100

Note: All totals and percentages are shown using rounded figures, and as such may not sum.           

Leverage of ARC funding

Of the 31 proposals considered, nine were approved with a total approved funding, over the life of these projects, of around $8.16 million. There are 31 unique Partner Organisations involved with these proposals, committing a total of $8.02 million in cash and in-kind funding. This represents around one dollar contribution from Partner Organisations for every dollar of funding from the ARC.

Discipline Statistics

Approved funding for PFAS Remediation Research Proposals by Discipline Groups are shown in Table 6.

Table 6 – Selection Outcomes by Discipline

Discipline†

Proposals considered

Proposals approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over life of project (approved proposals)

Approved funds over project life (approved proposals)

Approved funds as a percentage of request (%)

BSB

8

1

12.5

$1,672,698

$1,225,000

73.2

EIC

11

4

36.4

$3,754,635

$3,574,124

95.2

MPCE

12

4

33.3

$4,322,147

$3,367,226

77.9

Total

31

9

29

$9,749,480

$8,166,350

83.8

 BSB – Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC – Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences, MPCE – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Budget Breakdown

The budget breakdown across the forward years is shown in Table 7.

Table 7 – Budget Breakdown by Financial Year

 

2017-18

2018-19

2019-20

2020-21

Total

Approved Project Funding

$1,418,015

$2,762,147.50

$2,665,160

$1,321,027.50

$8,166,350

Total

$1,418,015

$2,762,147

$2,665,160

$1,321,027

$8,166,350

 Field of Research

Proposal data by Field of Research category for PFAS Remediation Research proposals are shown in Table 8.

Table 8 – Selection Outcomes by Field of Research Category

       

Participating Organisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved proposals)

Chemical Sciences

2

0

$0

$0

Earth Science

1

0

$0

$0

Enviromental Sciences

6

1

$1,225,000

$2,110,301

Engineering

19

8

$6,941,350

$11,839,611

Technology

3

0

$0

$0

Total

31

9

$8,166,350

$13,949,912

Gender

A total of 185 participants were identified as Chief Investigator or Partner Investigator on all proposals considered in Round One. Of these, 153 were male and 32 were female. The success rates for male participants was 29.7 per cent, and 5.4 per cent for female participants.